Tumor development in different cell types and tissue locations involves many pathways, distinct genes and exogenous factors. Tumor type-specific chromosome rearrangements resulting in fusion genes or promoter swapping are believed to be involved in the early development of many tumor types. They are present in almost all cases of a particular tumor type and cases have been described that carry only tumor type-specific translocations without any signs of other cytogenetic changes. The mechanisms behind chromosome rearrangements in solid tumors are largely unknown. Radiation is an important factor in thyroid carcinomas but no com-$bmon sequence motifs are made out in the break points of solid tumors. The fusion genes found in sarcomas are dominated by the transcription factor type of genes with the TLS/FUS and EWS series of fusion genes as the largest group. More than 50% of papillary thyroid carcinomas carry fusion proteins with tyrosine kinase activity. Rearrangements involving HMGIC, HMGIY, and PLAG1 are common in benign mesenchymal tumors and salivary gland adenomas. Many recurrent tumor translocations show a strict specificity for tumor type. This specificity can most likely be explained by the specific sets of target genes that are deregulated by the fusion gene products. Identification of the downstream target genes is currently the object of intense research and may provide us with information that will help design better diagnostic tools and eventually find a cure for these diseases.
Copyright 1999 Academic Press.